With everyone talking about this whole sustainability kick and the whole”going green” trend, haven’t they all forgotten to ask the most important question for any business? Do customers actually care if a company is being green or creating green products or offering green services? I mean, we can spend all the time, energy and finances we want on making our business play nice with the environment, but if the people who buy what we’re selling don’t care, why on earth would we waste our time? So, why don’t we answer this question before going any further. Do customers care about being green?
The short answer is yes. Take a look at this recent survey concerning the impact different “green” factors have on consumer decisions.
As you can see, consumers are definitely seeing a value in companies taking steps towards making their products and services more environmentally friendly. What you may not have guessed is who the majority of these green fiends are. Many of you will instinctively think “it has got to be the moms…” and while yes, there is definitely a passionate audience of moms out there expecting transparency from restaurants about their ingredients or companies about the different chemicals in their products, they’re not the largest audience. “It seems that the sustainability effort is largely embraced by today’s youth. We think teens; tweens and even kids are not only interested in doing the right thing for the planet, but also urging their friends and families to do the same.” (“Going ‘Green’ Appeals to Restaurant Customers’ Tastes”, Business News Daily) Moms and young professionals were a close second.
The long answer is yes, if you do it right. The underlying fact is that times are tough – call it a recession, call it getting out of a recession, call it whatever you wish. Money is tight for many consumers and some products that are produced in a more green manner or are more environmentally friendly are $15+ more than similar, less green alternatives. For many companies, this is simply because the processes and materials cost more. However, some companies perceive this to be an opportunity to raise prices to show a higher value in their product – and most green consumers can’t afford the leap. If you go ahead and create a more green product that costs 2x as much as competing products that are less green, all your consumers will care about at that point is the price. Our advice? Be willing to invest your time, energy and, yes, money to make your processes, products and services more green while keeping your prices as low as you can. It may be tough, but it will be worth it and your consumers will see that you care for their environment, which in turn means you care for them, too.
Many companies are already seeing the effects of green consumers. A recent study by IFS shows that “new research finds almost 77 percent of manufacturers feel they are being held accountable by customers to open up about the environmental impact of their businesses. That means making information on the environmental impact of their products available to customers and requiring information regarding environmental impact from their vendors and the rest of their supply chains.” Looking beyond your own processes to that of your suppliers will also make an impact on your green initiative, showing your consumers that you care enough to support only those who support the environment.
Take a look at your business as a whole from production to the delivery of your products and services to customers and you will be able to see areas in which you can improve and be more green. Once you have started that process, figure out a way to let your customers know what you are doing, especially if you are “greening behind the scenes”. A company that goes paperless in their office shows initiative and care for the environment, absolutely, but unless you find a way to let your customers know, they will lump you in with the paper hogs like they do every other business office. Don’t be afraid to show off that you are doing more than your part to make the environment your best friend. If you’ve got the same product/service as the company across the street but you are using completely organic materials and the cost is comparable, you’ll attract and retain more customers because of your honesty and care.
Need examples? Well, when thinking of grocery stores and just how many there are, two words come to mind: Whole Foods. Or how about the workplace hygiene industry and Workplace Essentials? One of their core values is to create environmentally safe, energy efficient and greener products for the workplace. Whether it’s the EcoDri Automatic Hand Dryer which uses 80% less energy than conventional hand dryers or the Sanitary Disposal Unit which contains a 100% recyclable, biodegradable waste neutralizer made from a blend of antimicrobial plant extracts and essential oils, Workplace Essentials truly delivers the “green” in workplace and restroom hygiene.